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What is the Difference between a Psychologist and Psychotherapist?

One thing they do share is the prefix of psych. In Ancient Greek, psyche (ψυχη) meant the soul or spirit. Another source, Free Dictionary, states the origin from Greek psūkho-, soul, life, which came from psūkhē.

In English, the prefix psycho- or psych-refers to mind, mental.

Definitions

Psychotherapy: The treatment of mental illness or related issues based on psychological theory.

Psychology: The study of emotion, cognition, behavior, and their interaction.

Minimum Requirements-Psychologist

To become a psychologist, two primary doctoral-level options can qualify you to work at the highest level of the field–the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and the Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degrees. You can provide counseling and therapy without a doctorate; however, you cannot refer to yourself as a psychologist.

The more common is the Ph.D. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), Ph.D.s are for individuals with an interest in scientific research.

Introduced in the 1970s, the Psy.D. may appeal more to those who are less research-oriented and more inclined to favor clinical services for patients. The clinical approach emphasizes methods of therapy and counseling.

The path to both of these terminal degrees is similar. Earn a bachelor’s, then a master’s in general psychology or one of several specializations (clinical, child, forensic etc.), then proceed to your doctorate. Students can expect a Ph.D. program to last 5-8 years. The Psy.D. may take 4-6 years. You need to complete an internship for one year that has been approved by the APA.

Minimum Requirements-Psychotherapist

Therapist or counselor is another title used for a psychotherapist. Counseling is a type of therapy. Patients see a therapist to help deal with behavior problems,  relationship conflicts, and other psychological issues. Therefore, counseling is prevalent in substance abuse, marriage problems, family issues, and PTSD, as examples.

The educational requirements of an addiction counselor, for example, differ by state. Individuals thinking of pursuing a career in this field should review the regulations for their respective state of employment. The minimum requirement for entry-level counseling positions is typically a bachelor’s degree. With this degree, counselors may discover that there are restrictions imposed on the scope of their duties as a counselor.

You can begin the path to becoming a therapist/counselor with an undergraduate degree in general psychology or a concentration related to clinical psychology. Your degree should satisfy the course requirements to proceed to a master’s program in psychology. It is beneficial to set your academic goal on a master’s program in psychology. Graduate-level therapists or counselors typically earn more and the degree will provide more job opportunities in specialized positions.

Before entering graduate school, you should decide what type of therapist you want to be. For example, do you want to become a marriage, family, or child therapist or a licensed clinical social worker? You also want to select an APA-accredited program in either a residency or online format.

A similarity in a psychologist and a therapist at the master’s level is that the APA does not accredit graduate-level programs. They only accredit doctoral programs. Therefore, if your master’s is your ultimate degree, then there will be more school choices available for a graduate degree than a doctorate.

However, undergraduate, Master’s level and online combined psychology programs can seek out other accrediting bodies. They are the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE), and the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP).

Summary

A psychologist is a therapist, counselor, and psychotherapist. All of which require a doctorate. A therapist or counselor is not always a psychologist. You can provide counseling and therapy for mental and emotional disorders without the need for a lengthy and expensive Ph.D. or Psy.D. The decision rests on your career aspirations.

Concerning salary, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the median pay for psychologists at $77,030 (May 2017). As of this date, there were 166,600 employed in the profession and the BLS projects the growth to be 14% or a change in 23,000 jobs over a ten-year period through 2026.

The BLS reports that mental health counselors have a median pay of $46,050. The specialty of School and Career Counselors has a wage of Psychologist with a Master’s degree. The growth of this category is 13% or a change in 36,700 jobs through 2026. The job outlook is as impressive as psychologists, however, the salary is not comparable.

Additional Resources:

What is the Benefit of a Ph.D. in Psychology vs. a Psy.D?

What are the differences in an Online vs Campus Master’s Degree in Psychology?

What Are the Different Kinds of Psychology Degrees?

How can I use a Psychology degree in Criminal Justice?

What is a degree in Psychology?

How fast can I complete my Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology Online?

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